On August 13, NetEase and CCP launched a new chapter in the story of sci-fi MMORPG set in the EVE universe. The Chinese gaming giant and the Icelandic set us on course for adventure when EVE Echoes blasted onto mobile screens earlier this month. More than just a clone of the big screen experience, EVE Echoes sets out to be a brand new way to experience everything about this new world and while we gave our impressions in our review in progress, it’s time to dive a little deeper into the whole experience with our full review.
While we barely got much of an opportunity to learn the ropes in our first few days in EVE Echoes, our second shot at space-based glory starts to settle into a familiar rhythm as we overcome the initial tutorials of EVE Echoes and get into the guts of this sandbox title. While the new player experience is relatively overwhelming for the greenest of capsules, the flexibility of EVE and its open-ended adventure really become a boon as you escape into the more advanced tutorials. With a basic understanding of how to navigate, read a map, and ask the advanced AI companion to do most of the fighting for you, much of the learning and levelling curve settles into a solid rhythm as you follow the preset recipe for levelling your character in EVE Echoes. At times, this might seem a bit repetitive, and it is, but even the advanced tutorials of the early game have several different ways to advance through the ranks and slowly get to grips with this new frontier.
Largely centered around Encounters, levelling and learning through the mid-levels of EVE Echoes is a very solid experience. Encounters are akin to quests in other games, and an addition to the tutorial system that plunges players out into space. Available in almost any region of space you enter, these encounters vary in difficulty, and design. Selecting from a list in your main menu, pilots might be delivering cargo, defending a ship, or scanning a new anomaly but in essence, these missions are the mid level fetch quest of EVE Echoes. With a plethora of self pathing systems, auto navigation, and auto-combat these missions allow players to easily earn in-game ISK and gather loot from their conquests. It’s a relatively serene affair when you consider the epic space battles and clash of corporations that make EVE such an appealing proposition when it pops up on gaming media, but this placid fetch and carry start is a great introduction to the overall feel of EVE Echoes. Granted, the user interface and story missions that this unlocks are less than obvious but this is a game where freedom is supposed to be key.
To that end, EVE Echoes does a decent job of easing the player into their new career path. You’ll have the opportunity to take on a range of paths, each of which usher players down a particular skillset of character traits. This class like character system can, like much of the game's other systems, be trained in the background. You’ll hear other players describing this as queuing, and while this kind of passive training might different from the more traditional points-based RPG system some of you are used to, the career system also doesn’t enforce the rigid conformity that a Cleric might expect in another realm.
Whatever career you choose to pursue, be it military, industrial, or some sort of hybrid mash up of talents, these will be crucial to piloting your craft of choice. Once again, EVE Echoes ties together these skills and the more advanced tutorial systems to provide players with at least the minimum level of ship and tools required to suit their abilities. As you learn more about how to hunt down and scour planets for resources or how to fire off a torpedo, the tutorial system acts like an easy way to give players an opportunity to complete missions that synergize with those pilot skills. The way that EVE Echoes helps guide players in a particular direction without enforcing any predetermined path speaks volumes for the approach that NetEase took to keeping the spirit of EVE alive in this new format.
Of course, in EVE you do not need to take what you are given and while the levelling curve in EVE Echoes can feel pretty placid for some, there is no need to stick to the inner ring of new Eden. Head out to the outer edges of the known galaxy and you’ll be able to do whatever you want, engage in nefarious activities, hunt other players, and mine the best planets. One of the central tenants of EVE is that you will be able to engage in the basic game experience and get along just fine in the middle lane of High Sec but the best bounties are out in the more lawless sectors.
Navigated using a rather clustered star chart, the way points that make up EVE Echoes many thousands of worlds, quite simply shows explorers and pirates alike where in the world is safe for your local delivery driver and where you are likely to get some action. These more fractious areas of EVE Echoes are where things generally pick up and experienced pilots will thrive. This space is where you’ll need to hold off the autopilot, learn how to interact with the touch screen navigation, prioritise targets, and decide exactly how far away from the local jump gate to come out of warp. While I’ve already said that EVE does a decent job of ushering new players into the cradle of New Eden, this jump from understanding how to go mining and exactly how to best keep your cargo in one piece is largely a sink or swim affair that you won’t get right first time. Players that have jumped ship from EVE to EVE Echoes will likely be the ones who head out and consider themselves the explorers of this new world, while new players might find it best to just hang in the amber areas for a bit longer. Also let me be clear, the PvE mobs drop the best loot out in Null Sec, so its a risk vs reward calculation when you head out into the lawless regions of space where PvP is fair game.
That said, you can just as easily play the pirate as the delivery driver out in the cold of Null Security Space and each encounter brings its own set of potential problems. While there are only so many TIE-Fighters a Squadrons fan will face, the number of weapon configurations in EVE Echoes is significant. While the smallest of ships need to make compromises, settling on missiles, projectiles, lasers, or torpedoes lager ships come brimming with hard points that can be configured with a ton of weapons and modifications. From auto repair features, to reactive shields, and targeting sensors, the array of possible combinations is overwhelming. However, like any good MMO you will probably find that too much variation leads to weakness all round, so in the end, you’ll specialize for certain situations.
Assuming you do have some of that sweet, sweet ore then there are more than a few things you can do with it. Whether you work the systems finding the best place for mining or just blow up other players in low-security space, EVE pilots can do a range of things with those aforementioned materials. Unfortunately, this is where you will find that the game’s paywall kicks in. Anybody looking to play the market of getting in enough extra time in EVE to make significant gains will need to invest in an Omega Clone. Coming in various tiers, these Omega Clone packages provide added benefits and less restrictive access to the systems and free market environment that EVE Echoes provides. While that might seem somewhat harsh, the minimal entry cost of $4.99 isn’t really too horrendous when you consider the cost against another premium free to play endeavors.
Sitting alongside these premium tier subscriptions are a range of ship skins that might leave new players a little bewildered and while I didn’t feel like they represent the best value for money, it is nice to see that cosmetic packages are all available using the same sort of PLEX currency conversion in the big scale version of EVE, meaning you won’t want for much if you really need to trade in in-game gold.
Going All In
If you’ve already bought up an Omega clone before even leaving the confines of the core systems in EVE then it is likely you’ll need a few friends. EVE, like any MMORPG, is best played together, especially when you get further out into the darkness. EVE Echoes is the sort of sandbox that is both utterly brutal and almost soothing experience. Much like the desktop game, it is easy to just waste time travelling between the stars and then lose everything because you forgot which space station you left your good ship docked in.
For a mobile port, EVE Echoes is an incredible experience, it brings together many of the aspects of its desktop brethren while molding in some of the more autonomic systems for the casual mobile gamer. It’s a game with so much variety, pilots could get lost warping from one system to the next and yet, that complexity provides a ton to discover. My only suggestion for players is that if you want to seriously get into EVE Echoes, buy a mobile designed to give you the maximum screen space because EVE Echoes complexity makes for a particularly busy UI. Anyway, who would want to witness the gargantuan space corporations blowing up millions of ISK on a 5-inch screen? We all know it will happen If you always wanted to get into EVE but never had the time to invest, this might be the right time for you to get started and build your own space-faring empire